By JOHN T. WARD
At a hearing packed with supporters, and without a peep of objection, Red Bank’s zoning board gave unanimous approval Thursday night to a plan by St. Anthony of Padua parish to build a new social services facility on Herbert Street.
“They’ve obviously been very beneficial to the town,” said board member Sean Murphy, citing the church and its volunteers. “Unfortunately, the need is growing, but we’re very fortunate to have them.”
Church pastor Father Alberto Tamayo told the board that about 1,000 visitors per month turn out for its twice-weekly distribution of groceries and clothing, as well as financial assistance, immigration guidance and counseling.
For years, the food pantry has been run out of the parish center on Herbert Street, but requires hours of set-up and break-down because the space is used for other purposes, Tamayo said.
The plan calls for the demolition of a “somewhat dilapidated” house and a garage the church owns at 16 Herbert Street, opposite the parish center. They’re to be replaced by a 4,500-square-foot, two-story structure designed to look like a house, though its only sleeping quarters will be second-floor bedrooms for visiting priests.
“It’s a place where people will go to fraternize and priests will stay,” architect Ned Gaunt told the board. “So we wanted to make it like a home.”
In addition to food and clothing storage areas, the new building will include a community meeting room and several offices to provide privacy for clients, he said.
The church has already raised the estimated $750,000 cost of the facility, which is to be named St. Crispin’s Mission House, after a Franciscan cleric who advocated on behalf of working people, Tamayo told redbankgreen.
On another matter, the board granted a request by the Two River Theater to install two, three-sided signs on the sidewalk in along Edmund Wilson Plaza — one at the corner of Bridge Avenue, and the other closer to the theater’s parking lot.
Theater managing director Michael Hurst said the signs were needed to improve visibility, now that the new West Side Lofts housing, retail and restaurant project is completed. The new building partly obscures the theater’s box office signage, he said.
“Forty percent of out patrons last year were new to the theater,” and in surveys, significant numbers of them cited difficulty locating the facility, Hurst said.
The signs, one 1o feet tall and the other nine feet, will be internally lit and display posters touting current and upcoming productions, he said.